Site Name: Matanza-Riachuelo, Argentina
Pollutant: Volatile organic compounds, including toluene
Population Affected: 20,000+
The Matanza-Riachuelo River Basin is part of a 64-kilometer stream in Argentina that originates in the Buenos Aires province and empties into the Rio de la Plata on the border of Argentina and Uruguay. The basin houses a number of chemical manufactures and industrial factories. It is believed that around 5,000 industries are dumping industrial effluents into the river, which cuts through 14 municipalities in Buenos Aires, obviously affecting a great number of local residents. Chemical manufacturers are responsible for more than a third of the pollution. In total, there are more than 13 slums and 100 open-air garbage dumps on the banks of the river. Of the residents living in the slums, around half lack access to potable water.1
While the pollutants at this site vary greatly, the report has highlights the volatile organic compound (VOC) toluene to illustrate the severity of the problem. Concentration of toluene in air around the river basin was nearly 200 times the recommended level when it was last checked due to the numerous polluting industries located in close proximity to the river. This represents a severe threat, as over 20,000 people are potentially inhaling these toxic levels of toluene every day. Programs have been underway for almost a decade to deal with this issue, with limited success.
1 IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, 2009. Available at: www.source.irc.nl/page/46738